Achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) within reach
“It is crucial to report on the progress made, the challenges that remain and the impact of COVID-19 on the WASH sector,” said Ambassador Mark Green, President, Director and CEO of the Wilson Center and former administrator of USAID, in his opening remarks. at recent event hosted by the Wilson Center and Circle of Blue to discuss the WASH at your fingertips project.
After months of research and interviews with dozens of authorities on five continents, WASH at your fingertips demystifies the complexity of a global sector that now spends more than $ 20 billion a year and is on track to meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene for all on Earth by 2030.
So how can we achieve SDG 6? WASH sector experts reflected on this fundamental question during this special session which highlighted the series and its importance, highlighting the key players in the sector and what needs to be done to achieve SDG 6.
Glass half full?
In her opening remarks, Maura Barry, USAID’s Interim Global Water Coordinator, said the project’s groundbreaking reporting shed light on the “bright spots” of the WASH world, which is too often seen as a “bright spot”. glass half empty ”.
The United Nations has been the guardian of this pessimism, said Keith Schneider, editor and correspondent of Circle of Blue, and author of the three-part WASH Within Reach. “What I have found is that WASH has been much more effective than the major players have recognized over the past 20 or 30 years,” he said.
When the project’s report began in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic painted a different picture for many actors in the WASH sector. “When COVID-19 took hold of the world last year, there were real concerns about the sustainability of WASH funding and service, especially for developing countries,” Ambassador Green said. As COVID-19 continues to devastate communities around the world, he said, “Taking stock of areas where WASH systems are resilient to the pandemic can help provide important information for investment and development. ‘future innovation.’
As signs of a potential disaster shone, the actual effects of the pandemic on water supply and sanitation for those in need were not as severe as expected. “COVID-19 is a problem in WASH. It’s a problem everywhere, ”said Schneider. But that’s not close to the hurdle at this point compared to what WASH has faced for 50 years, he said, such as population growth in cities, poverty in rural areas and the financing and WASH funding.
Through its reporting, Schneider has found that over the past 50 years, at least $ 400 billion has been spent in the industry, which operates roughly as a galaxy, including high-level institutions, a community of dedicated professionals and social enterprises working on the ground.
Reiterating the ideas of an expert interviewed for the series, Schneider said that by 2030, about 95% of the world’s population could have universal access to water and sanitation.
Achieve SDG 6
Panelists agreed that achieving SDG 6 will require more than the work of a single business or social institution, but that the focus should be on the local and regional levels.
Joel Kolker, program director of the Global Partnership for Water Security and Sanitation at the World Bank, said water, unlike other sectors like power and energy, tends to be served locally and that subnational governments tend to have the greatest challenges in sustaining WASH. services.
Tanvi Nagpal, director of the international development program at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said governments should look to social enterprises that have developed the models needed to achieve the UN’s lofty goal. . “But, for these models, these methods, these strategies to really have an impact,” she said, “they will need to be integrated in some way or another into service delivery systems managed by the organizations. governments. ”
Sanergy, a 12-year-old company that operates 3,500 public toilets used by more than 130,000 people per day in Kenya’s informal settlements, has successfully established both bottom-up and top-down partnerships, working within communities and alongside governments. Sheila Kibuthu, director of communications at Sanergy, said this model creates a unique environment for Sanergy circular sanitation system succeed in informal settlements and allow expansion beyond Nairobi.
Sanergy’s model not only improves sanitation for thousands of Nairobi residents, it affects a number of other sectors as well. “We work with farmers, we work with health practitioners, and so what we really worked on – given that government in particular has been our main stakeholder – is that we were able to bring all these stakeholders together. Kibuthu said. . Through Sanergy’s circular economy approach to biological waste, Kibuthu said, they were able to show the links between sanitation and waste management, sanitation and agriculture, and sanitation and climate resilience, which has contributed to stronger policymaking and sanitation prosperity.
Availability, a consortium whose goal is to provide long-term drinking water services in rural areas, is based on a model that awards performance-based subsidies to service providers. Duncan McNicholl, director and co-founder of Uptime, said that in order to build their capacity, they need to be able to demonstrate results over a longer period of time and at increasingly large scales. “We have to go beyond the pilot stage,” McNicholl said.
In his closing remarks, Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which funded the WASH Within Reach project, said we have almost everything we need to achieve SDG 6 The missing piece? Global responsibility and political commitment.
“We need to increase efficiency at every level of the systems,” Laugharn said.
Universal access to WASH services is certainly within reach. The question now seems to be how the WASH world maintains this momentum. Active participation at all levels is key, Kibuthu said. “Working together is what it takes.
Jane johnston is a communications associate for Circle of Blue. She writes The Stream and has covered national and international water issues for Circle of Blue. She recently graduated from Grand Valley State University, where she studied multimedia journalism and studies on women, gender and sexuality.
Sources: Sanergy and availability.
Photo credit: Speakers Tanvi Nagpal (top left), Lauren Risi (moderator) (top center), Ambassador Mark Green (top right), Maura Barry (middle left), Joel Kolker (middle center) ), Keith Schneider (middle right), Duncan McNicholl (bottom left) and Sheila Kibuthu (bottom right).